(Inspired by dreams my Mom, Terry Doyle, recently shared with me)
Freedom is not a commodity to be traded or bartered for in exchange for something else. As the founding fathers of the United States of America understood it in their Declaration of Independence of 1776, freedom was a gift, an unalienable right from God. The men who signed that document feared and despised the tyrannical rule and unquestionable nature of man-made kings. Hence, they embarked upon a mission to fight for their freedom as a nation, asking for the blessing from God to forge a new government based upon the notions of self-governance and limited government.
That quest for freedom was filled with dangers, hardships, struggles, and setbacks. After winning their freedom from England, the American colonists worked to find agreement on a form of government that would not oppress or enslave them. A number of years in experimentation and debate led to the acceptance of our Constitution and Bill of Rights—one as a definition and directive to the operation of the government’s three branches, the other providing protections for its citizens from the threat of government overreach. Ours is not a perfect document or government or freedom, but it has been the best form of government mankind has designed anywhere else in the world, ever, and it remains so some 236 years after independence was declared.
Though the notion of freedom seems like the best way to live for mankind, it is not particularly compatible with those human beings whose fervent desire is to rule their peers by threat of force, largesse through entitlement, or ultimate supremacy of the State. Wielding power over others for advantage is both tempting and seductive to the human ego. Rather than rule by consent of the people, many nations around the world govern at the point of a gun to the head. In my opinion, the United States of America was founded, in large part, on the faith of its citizenry in a God who continues to grant them freedom.
So it seems prudent, even for a secular-minded citizen, to be cognizant of the important historical, symbolic, and symbiotic relationship between faith and freedom in our country. And while secularists love to point to the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights as the crowning jewel of free speech to justify the lowest semblances of vulgarity, it is no accident that a grateful group of founding fathers placed the highest priority on prohibiting Congress from restricting religion (faith in God), ahead of the rights of speech, the press, and peaceful assembly. In other words, it seemed more important to the founders of America to honor God (who granted us freedom) first, before enacting the mechanisms to complain about whether or not we should call upon God or even bother to worship Him.
But what happens to the blessing and gift of freedom when, as a nation, we turn away from the God who granted it? What happens to our strength as a world power, when we embrace foreign gods or no god at all? When we removed public prayer from our schools, did we break faith with God and undermine the instruction of good citizenship and selflessness among our children? Have we not abandoned the original agreement our forefathers made with God in the establishment of our founding documents by striking down religious symbols and references to God from government-controlled buildings? Shall we ultimately remove God’s name from our currency and pledge of allegiance? How arrogant must we become in our exercise of freedom before we find ourselves a citizenry in chains to our mutual folly?
I have written in the past about a famous man of antiquity named Samson. In the Old Testament account of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16, there is a story Americans would do well to memorize and teach to their children. A boy born of unusual circumstances (through a divine directive of God) became a judge as well as a visual aid of sorts to the nation of Israel. At the time of this account, the chosen people of God (the Israelites) had once again turned away from God and were practicing idol worship to the foreign gods of the Philistines. Keep in mind that God had brought the nation of Israel into being as the result of their miraculous deliverance from 400 years of Egyptian slavery, a few hundred years prior to Samson’s birth. The record of the Book of Judges is a history of the many second-chances God afforded the Israelites to repent and return to faith in God alone.
The Philistines worshiped many gods, some of whom demanded child sacrifice for appeasement. Each time the Israelites turned to these foreign gods, God deemed it an act of prostitution. While the nation of Israel was in bed with foreign gods, in defiance of God’s commandments, He became angry to the point of wrath. God raised up judges to punish the nations who corrupted His chosen people, Israel. When God raised up Samson, a supernatural strength was granted to him provided he never drank wine or cut his hair. Unfortunately, Samson was a womanizer who often slept with prostitutes; prostituting himself after a fashion much like the Israelites had continued to practice with the foreign gods of the Philistines.
Samson was free to use his strength to subdue the Philistines on behalf of the Israelites. He killed hundreds of Philistines. He killed thousands of them. In fact, with God’s power Samson was unbeatable. But Samson’s lust for prostitutes became his downfall. He took for granted the freedom given him by God. He took for granted the power by which God had blessed him. Samson forgot God while he slept with prostitutes. One day, a prostitute named Delilah tricked Samson into revealing the source of his strength. Then she cut off all his hair as he slept in her bed.
All of God’s power left Samson. He was sapped of strength because he had abandoned God. Samson was easily captured by his enemies, the Philistines. They beat him, tortured him, and (for good measure) gouged out his eyes. Samson became a slave to the worshipers of foreign gods. He was chained daily to a grinding wheel like an ox, working for his captors.
Imagine for a moment that the America we know and love is Samson. Among all the other nations of the world, a few hundred years earlier, God granted a miraculous deliverance of a ragtag group of faithful men (called the Continental Army) over a vastly superior British force ruled by a mighty king in a foreign land. No longer were the chains of tyrannical government bound around the hearts and minds of the colonists. The nation of America was born. The history of America and its freedoms have been bound to God ever since. The strength of our nation, like Samson, grew from our faith in God like long, shining, and beautiful hair flowing from the faithful worship of God and the presence of the Church.
Popular opinion polls tell us fewer folks believe in God these days. Many churches have diluted the message of the gospel and have welcomed foreign gods into their assemblies. These days prayer at public events is often banned, shunned, and mercilessly ridiculed by popular figures. Even our country’s leader, President Obama, has been known to edit out references to God in recitation of the Declaration of Independence or in addresses about the founding of our nation. What on Earth is more fearful than invoking the wrath of God? I cannot imagine it! Still, I fear we are inviting it by a collective, conscious effort to turn away from Him.
Is it by coincidence that mosques seem to be cropping up in greater numbers in this country as crosses are being pulled down from public view, and churches are closing their doors and disappearing from the landscape? I am afraid not. In a schizophrenic desire to appear progressive, fashionable, worldly, and secular our nation has prostituted itself like never before. We are consistently turning away from God, just as the Israelites did in Old Testament times.
Remember Samson. Yes, he was once strong, but not of his own power. His sapping of strength resulted in a life ruined, a freedom surrendered, permanent blindness, and slavery.
Remember America, your strength and freedoms are God-given. No one reasonably fears what they don’t have, but rather what they stand to lose. Abandon your foreign gods and return to faith in the Only God who truly blesses you with freedom’s gifts, lest you succumb to that bitter history too oft repeated and little remembered or heeded.
God is waiting to hear from you.
(copyright 2012, Gregory Allen Doyle)
Here is an interesting Youtube short feature about faith, our founding fathers, and our nation’s capital that turns a timely tour into a visual aid. Enjoy!—The Gadfly